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Here is how India can qualify for FIFA World Cup: Qualification scenarios

India's victory over Kuwait sets the stage for a historic journey, with aspirations to potentially clinch a spot in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Here's how India can qualify.

Here is how India can qualify for FIFA World Cup: Qualification scenarios

The Indian men's football team wins FIFA World Cup qualifiers match against Kuwait. 


Aswathy Santhosh

Updated: 18 Nov 2023 6:05 AM GMT

India embarked on the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers with an impressive 1-0 victory against Kuwait, setting the stage for a historic opportunity. The Indian football team is now aiming to reach the third round of the World Cup qualifiers, a feat they have never achieved before.

Ranked 99th in the FIFA Rankings, India is in Pot 2 for the draw for the qualifiers, sharing Group A with Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. Qatar, sitting at 59th, tops the group, followed by India, while Kuwait and Afghanistan hold the 137th and 157th positions, respectively.

As it stands:

After defeating Kuwait in the away game, India occupies the second position in the group. Qatar, with an 8-1 win over Afghanistan, leads the group with a significant goal difference. The key challenge for India lies in facing Qatar, the defending champion of AFC Asian Cup, but positive results against Afghanistan and Kuwait could secure them a spot in the next round.

Qualification format:

All four teams in Group A will engage in a double round-robin format from November 2023 to June 2024. India needs to secure a top-two finish in the group to progress to the third round and confirm their spot in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup:

If India finishes in the top two, they will join the draw for the third round in 2024, competing against other group winners and runners-up. The top two teams from each group in the third round will qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

Should India not secure a top-two finish, they still have chances, albeit in a more complex scenario. The third and fourth-placed teams in the third-round groups will enter the fourth round.

If India secures the top position in the fourth-round group, it progress directly to the 2026 FIFA World Cup. If India finishes bottom in the fourth round, their journey ends. However, a second-place finish would propel them to the fifth round.

Fifth round and beyond:

In the fifth round, the two second-placed teams from the fourth round will face off in a two-legged clash. The winner will proceed to the Inter-confederation playoffs, competing against teams from CAF (Africa), CONMEBOL (South America), OFC (Oceania) and two teams from the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America and the Caribbean).

The lowest-ranked FIFA teams will compete in two knockout matches, with the winners progressing to face the two highest-ranked teams in subsequent knockout games. Victory in these matches secures a coveted spot for the triumphant teams in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

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